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Hong Kong tycoon 'set to clinch British power business'

Li Ka-shing.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 27, 2011
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing is set to clinch the acquisition of a power distribution business in a deal which would see him control half of Britain's electricity network, the Sunday Times reported.

The octogenarian billionaire is expected to buy the electricity networks put up for sale last year by German energy giant E.ON, the newspaper said.

CKI, Li's investment arm, is believed to have outbid US utility firm PPL, its last remaining rival in an auction for the business.

Li paid 5.8 billion pounds ($9.3 million, 6.8 billion euros) for EDF's networks arm last year, which provides power in London and southeast England.

The addition of E.ON's business would give him control of 290,000 kilometres (180,000 miles) of cable supplying electricity to 30 million British homes.

The paper said E.ON could announce the successful bidder as soon as this week, although it added that sources close to the deal warned that while CKI's bid was the highest, it could fall foul of competition concerns.

Britain's electricity regulator Ofgem has expressed concerns in the past about the loss of competition in the sector.

The deal would make Li -- whose empire in Britain also includes high street chemist Superdrug and 3, the mobile phone group -- the dominant player in a key infrastructure sector.

In contrast, PPL also owns a distribution business, Western Power Distribution, which supplies electricity to southwest England, but its far smaller size poses less of a concern in competition terms.

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